I recently transitioned to a new role in Vodafone as Chief Commercial Officer for the Partner Markets business unit.
Before that, I spent three years as a Corporate Strategy Executive in Vodafone's Group Strategy & New Business team.
Previous experiences include M&A at JPMorgan and management consulting at DiamondCluster and Mercer Management Consulting.
I got an MBA from Stern School of Business at New York University and a Master of Sciences at Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) in Paris.
Currently living in London (but working in Newbury ...), I previously worked/lived in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, the US, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Malaysia !!
As a proud and delighted owner of a 2G iPhone, I was sitting on the fence last month when Steve Jobs presented the new 3G version at the WWDC in San Francisco. Getting an unlocked version in the UK (I would not go for an O2 subscription obviously ;)...) had a cost, and seeing my investment become obsolete so quickly was quite frustrating. On the other hand, the iPhone is by far THE best gadget I ever had, so anything even better would be too attractive to resist.
So the 3G iPhone was announced and now launched. In terms of hardware, it is more an evolution than a revolution vs the previous version, with HSDPA and A-GPS as the main upgrades. HSDPA will be nice and should offer a browsing experience closer to WiFi. A-GPS is interesting, but still waiting for the apps to make it worthwile on a mobile. However, these two improvements do not hide the fact that the iPhone is now playing catch up with the specs sheet of the flagship devices of players such as Nokia or Samsung:
- 2 MP camera ? Please... The benchmark now is 5 MP with flash and at least digital zoom
- No video support ? Are we in 2008 or 2002 ?
- No MMS ? OK email is great, but some people still like to send pics (or videos by the way...) via MMS for the immediacy and all. Why not giving users the choice ?
- Haptics and some tactile feedback (quite standard now on Motorola, LG and Samsung) would have been nice to improve the user experience of the virtual keyboard
- Memory: why cap it to 16 GB ? The only reason I see is not to cannibalise too much the iPod sales, but still, 32 GB would have been nice....
Even with these shortcomings, the iPhone launch in 21 markets worlwide was a huge success with people lining up for hours from Auckland to New York via Tokyo and London and the demand proving to be too strong for the iTunes activation systems.
There is one basic reason behind it: price and affordability. When Apple launched the first iPhone, they were too greedy and tried to kill too many birds with one stone, so convinced were they of the iPhone uniqueness:
- They did not want to cannibalise iPod sales and therefore forced the mobile operators to sell them unsubsidized
- They required a revenue share from the operators to maximise the value per device
Don't get me wrong, and let me repeat it, it is true that the iPhone is THE best gadget ever. However, when as a customer, you are used to get a new phone for free every 12-18 months, you are not that ready to spend $400/£270/€400 for an iPhone, especially if you can get a top-of-the-range Nokia, Samsung or Sony Ericsson for free. For Apple to have "sold" 6m 2G iPhone under this model is quite impressive and clearly demonstrates how good the device is.
To become mainstream and mass market, Apple had to review its model, hence the success of the 3G iPhone launch:
- Accept the subsidised model, sell to the operators for a guaranteed revenue, get lower margins per device, but achieve major gains in volumes
- Take some lessons from Andy Grove and proactively cannibalise iPod sales
I also think two new developments will support the sales numbers:
- Exchange support opening the gates to the enterprise segment
- 3rd party apps support expanding the range of user experience on the device
As my personal contribution, I took a pic of the line in front of the O2 shop in my neighborhood in London. This is no flagship store, and the line was solid all day long on Friday. As a comparison, there was no line at all when the 2G version got released. On Sunday, it was far quieter, as the store had sold out as almost any other 3G iPhone outlet....
So I am ready to bet the 3G iPhone will become the 2008 bestselling smartphone, far ahead of Nokia, RIM and Windows Mobile. The key question is whether I will upgrade my 2G version or not...
After three years spent within the Strategy team, I recently moved to a new role at Vodafone in our Global Business Development group. I will be the Chief Commercial Officer for the Partner Markets business, leading all commercial and financial aspects. The role of the Partner Markets team is to create partnerships with other mobile operators to offer our portfolio of products and services in countries where we do not have subsidiaries, hence expanding our exposure to end users under a win-win model with our local partners. Looking forward to the new challenges!
A recent survey by Sandvine provided some colour in terms of bandwidth consumption:
1. P2P file sharing applications: 44%
2. Web browsing: 27%
3. Media streaming: 15%
4. VPN: 6%
5. Newsgroups: 6%
6. Online games: 1%
7. VoIP: <1%
Media/video applications acount for almost 60% of the traffic (traffic, not users or time spent). It puts things into perspective and explains why the debate around net neutrality is so important. Just imagine the amount of required investments Verizon, Comcast or BT would have to finance to ensure their networks can support a 100% penetration of video/applications. The issue being that in today's world they can't charge more depending on the traffic type, a byte is a byte...
Also interesting was the relatively high level of VPN usage (more travel? more flexibility?) and the low number for online games. Online games are extremely bandwidth-efficient (most of the processing is done locally and only a limited amount of data is shared with the servers) at the opposite end of P2P applications.
Nielsen just released a report with mobile search stats for Q1 08, which shows that users end up relying on the same brands they are used to on their PC. Google leads with 61% share, following by Yahoo! at 18% and MSN at 5%. Looks very similar to how these portals rank on the PC, even though usage patterns might differ a bit.
It is still somehow surprising. Yahoo! is indeed far more involved in the mobile field, having launched mobile specific services ahead of its competitors and having achieved quite a successful business development track record, both with operators and handset manufacturers. It basically means that when users decide to light up their mobile browser and go through the motions of doing a search, entering the web address of the highly trusted Google brand is not really that demanding as an added step.
As the mobile internet user experience improves - better devices, higher network speeds,... - it is only logical that users first replicate the internet usage they have on their PC and rely on trusted brand names to do so. I still think though that as they grow confident with the medium, we will start to see new and differentiated applications, and potentially brand names...
Quick Response (QR) codes are as common as pachinko machines in Japan. Basically, they are a type of small bar code that captures a web address. With a mobile phone, you just take a picture of the code and then your mobile browser is directly re-routed to this website. It is extremely convenient as it eases data input on a small mobile keyboard - especially for sometimes quite complex URLs - and offers some kind of immediacy.
QR codes are now on everything in Japan, from business cards (rather than the company website address) to catalogues. Advertising and e-commerce are part of the applications supported but the main point really is to simplify the mobile internet experience.
QR codes have now appeared in Europe and the US, mainly pushed by advertisers, e.g. Umbro pictured below, with companies such as Boots or HSBC also adding QR codes to their products or print materials in the UK.
The issue with QR codes at this stage is that not that many phones have a reader pre-installed. The swiss army knife that is the N95 obviously has one, but it is well hidden in a sub-sub-sub menu. To favour uptake, clients can be downloaded for the main OSes - Symbian, Windows Mobile,... It will however take time to create critical mass in the installed base, but I hope this is something mobile operators (not advertisers) will further push. It is indeed a great enabler to increase mobile internet traffic, just look at Japan!
GigaOM has an interesting post with a list of mobile VoIP applications, the underlining message being that VoIP is now ready to change the mobile industry and push prices down in the same way as it did in the fixed world, with the wider availability of smartphones, WiFi and 3G mobile broadband serving as a basis to help the market develop to 250m users by 2012.
In a previous post, I already gave my views on VoIP: this is a technology, not a service. I already mentioned that mobile VoIP services such as Skype or Truphone are interesting only for some niche segments doing a lot of long distances or international calls, and it is interesting to see how Om and his team fit well this customer profile:
- They are advanced geeks not afraid to install apps on their phones and change settings. Believe me, this is not mainstream ! They are also happy to accept technical issues and lack of stability of some of these solutions
- They have smartphones that are WiFi enabled and use it for VoIP calls, hence limiting the mobility side of things. And using 3G mobile internet is not free...
- They are a SME with employees/bloggers spread out across the US so they need to do a lot of long distance calls without the luxury of large bundles
I am not against VoIP. As a technology, it will be key in the development of mobile next generation services. As a service though, I am still struggling to see how it can become mass market when you can get unlimited bundles in the US for $80-100 (or family plans with unlimited on-net calls for far less) and very large bundles (we are getting 5 hours and unlimited internet for £30 ($60) now...) in most European countries.
The only trade-off is for long distance/international calls, so seems GigaOM's team fits well the interested niche segment. Who gets cannibalized there, mobile operators or providers of LD/international calling cards? LD cards already almost disappeared in Europe as broadband providers (Carphone, Free,...) use the VoIP technology to offer unlimited national and international calls on their network...
Seems Google finally demoed the now legendary HTC Dream at a conference today in San Fran. Details are still thin on the ground, so check Engadget Mobile for further updates. Based on the video it looks quite promising !
The hype better be good, the 3G iPhone is indeed due in only two weeks...
M:Metrics recently made public some data from January 2008 in terms of mobile data usage (table below).
It offers two interesting takeaways:
- The most successful applications are still related to communications, i.e. multimedia messaging and emailing, followed by internet browsing, music and gaming
- The US are now a mature mobile market, and Europeans can't assume anymore they are at the leading edge when considering mobile content and applications. Sure there are still some discrepancies (still trying to understand why music is not big other there) but usage data are fairly aligned. Worth noting is that the US have a lead over Europe when considering the most advanced applications such as internet browsing, emailing or social networking. Seems the American mobile users went straight from the old clunky basic cellphones to the advanced smartphones such as the iPhone or the Blackberry Pearl/Curve, while other here in Europe, users still tend to value fashion - less advanced - phones that can only offer a limited internet user experience
Social networking and sites such as myspace, facebook and webjam revolutionised our interactions with the web over the last five years and it is now likely that this is moving to the mobile area.
It should not come as a surprise for anyone following market dynamics and consumer behavior in Japan and Korea (and China....). After all Mobage-town is Japan's 2nd largest website (per page views) while being mobile only, and a large chunk of CyWorld subscribers in Korea pay an additional fee to access it from their mobile.
A recent study by Nielsen shows that this is now developing in the US and Europe with 1.6-1.7% of mobile users in the US and the UK accessing social networking sites from their mobile, while numbers are lower for Continental Europe (0.5%). If you think this is negligible, think again. If you apply this penetration to the installed 3G base and to users subscribing to a data plan, you end up with quite a sizable penetration! Even more interesting, if you look at the numbers starting from people using social networks, it appears that a quarter were also accessing their profile/sites from their mobiles in the UK.
Using social networks can be as addictive as a Blackberry so it should not be too surprising. As MySpace and Facebook also lead the pack in terms of mobile usage, the key question becomes whether there is some room for some mobile driven social networks or if the "incumbents" will simply also succeed on the mobile.
One key output though is that mobile access will become more and more important. So Webjam, when do we get one ? ;)
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